The European parliament is debating a draft biopiracy law requiring industry to compensate indigenous people if it makes commercial use of local knowledge such as plant-based medicines.
Under the law – based on the international convention on access to biodiversity, the Nagoya protocol – the pharmaceuticals industry would need the written consent of local or indigenous people before exploring their region’s genetic resources or making use of their traditional knowhow. Relevant authorities would have the power to sanction companies that fail to comply, protecting local interests from the predatory attitude of big European companies.
Only 16 countries have ratified the Nagoya protocol. The EU and 24 of its 27 member states have signed the convention, but are yet to ratify it. When they do, Nagoya should soon reach the 50 states needed for it to come into force. But obstacles remain due to vested interests, particularly in the European pharmaceuticals industry. “90% of genetic resources are in the south and 90% of the patents are in the north,” Bélier told EurActiv. “The 16 states are countries in the south. Benefit-sharing applies to European territory as well,” she said, adding that vested interests were strong in French Guiana, a biodiversity-rich French territory in South America.
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